1949 – 2009
Sadly, the Ballina BUG members and friends learnt of the passing of Irene Bourne on Sunday night, 19th July, 2009 in her sixtieth year. She had been battling cancer following breast cancer in 2004. Irene was born, Irene Margaret Donoghue, in Grafton on the 12th of September 1949 into a family of six boys and two girls where she was the third child and eldest daughter.
Irene was educated at St Joseph’s Primary South Grafton and St Mary’s secondary Grafton, where she enjoyed playing netball.
After leaving school, Irene worked for the Egg Marketing Board in Grafton. This is where, through a work associate, she met Ray Bourne. Irene and Ray married in December 1968 at St Patrick’s Church South Grafton.
The happy couple started married life in Lismore. Later, they then moved to Evans Head for five years. During this time their children, Glenn and Sharon, were born. A move back to Grafton saw a more suitable workload for them both. Eventually, in 1996, Ray and Irene moved to Ballina … their favourite location!
Before the bike there was horse riding on the farm. She also tried a motorbike but like many had some control issues, so I am told by her son.
Irene loved life and there were many things she loved: Chocolate, Jigsaws, cryptic crosswords and sudoku; Knitting, needlework, reading and movies. Classical music, especially Mozart and Schubert were her favourite listening, and her favourite opera was Verdi. Concerts and live theatre in Brisbane with Ray were a special treat. A particularly happy experience was a holiday her and Ray took to Lindeman Island in 1984. Then there was the bushwalking with Ray in many National Parks.
Of course, many of us here today know Irene through her greatest love (besides Ray and the children) – that of cycling! From the moment she first joined the Ballina BUG as an inaugural member, her immaculately maintained bikes (we’re all jealous Ray) and her absolute enthusiasm for riding never ceased to dazzle us all.
Over these cycling years we all watched as Irene progressed in her cycling accomplishments. Her bikes got more and more competitive, and after she’d had the obligatory stationary cleated-fall in front of everyone, her confidence grew and so did her goals.
Its hard to believe that a person who never drove a car on a highway because she felt it was ‘too dangerous’ wasn’t afraid to cycle the same roads! And cycle she did, covering almost 60,000 kms over half of NSW’s and QLD’s highways and byways. That distance, by the way, is according to her own log book, which carefully documents her last four bikes and their respective travels. And there was no cheating on this- when the bike was travelling on the car, she made Ray tie the back wheel so there wouldn’t be any extra distance recorded!
Her laughter and sense of fun permeated any ride she was on, and she was always keen to hear about other people and their stories. She was also famous for her magpie avoidance technique (involving a myriad of strategically placed plastic zip ties on bicycle helmet), which was something to be admired- but perhaps only copied by the very brave!
Thank goodness the cycling was able to keep Irene focused, while on the side she had to endure breast cancer surgery (in 2004), and a ruptured spleen and a spleenectomy in 2006. Imagine her sense of achievement after these events, when she became so fit that she was able to ride in the 2007 NSW Big (550km) Bike Ride! And that was just three months after the last surgery! Despite the rugged weather endured by all (so cold some suffered hypothermia) it was the highlight of her cycling ‘career’.
Her friends in BUG have been very precious to her and her to us. She particularly remembered nine BUG ‘Angels’ who arrived on her front lawn and sang Christmas carols after she’d had surgery in 2006.
One of Irene’s special friends is Leonie who has supported and encouraged her for a long time.
Her only regret was not going on a proposed group cycling trip to France. The trip never eventuated, but the planning and organising with several ‘lady’ BUGS was a lot of fun. Fortunately, life is about the journey (or the planning), not the destination! And Irene’s journey has been a fine one. Maybe, one day, the trip will be made, and if so, dedicated to her. In the meantime, we’ll be thinking of her every time we do her favourite local ride, the picturesque yet vertically daunting Devil’s Elbow!
Irene is survived by her husband, Ray, and children Glenn and Sharon, two granddaughters and a step- grandson, her mother and brothers and a sister, Fay.
(This is a compilation and some extracts from Irene’s eulogy)